02 December, 2015

Battlefront's Battle of Jakku Is A Well-Timed Blast

Star Wars: Battlefront’s first free downloadable content, Battle of Jakku, has rolled out for the players who pre-ordered, like myself. Here’s my thoughts having playing a bunch of the new content, with the added bonus of a short discussion of how I feel Battle of Jakku fairs when held up against Halo 5’s recent free update.

Star Wars Battlefront Battle of Jakku Banner

Battle of Jakku

Battlefront launched with twelve maps, a number many claim is too few. As I mentioned in my review, it’s view I respect but don’t agree with, which is often the case when just such as argument is levelled against a title; sure, I will have said the same about some games at some point, but when a game hits that sweet spot, my feelings on volume of content tend to become secondary. Anyone who’s read or listened to my feelings on other games  in the past, can probably tell that I’m all about the experience; I’ve learnt that quantifying ‘value’ in a way I consider honest and useful, usually requires more context than I’m prepared to provide.

Battlefront’s position was strengthened by the quality of its maps; whether small or large they support multiple discrete forms of combat encounters. In my review I described the different qualities of the larger maps; the wide channels of Sullust and Hoth, compared to the winding ravines of Tatooine, and the vertical hell-hole known as the forest moon of Endor – which is exactly as it should be. The two new maps set on Jakku, one large one small, are equally distinct. Jakku being the desert planet from the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie, despite sharing the same arid biome of Tatooine, its dunes are quite different.

Star Wars Battlefront Battle of Jakku Graveyard of Giants Airspeeder

The larger of the two maps, Graveyard of Giants, is of course the star of the show. It is a warzone not littered with downed starships and blasted walkers, but replete with them, and perpetual battle rages in the skybox all around. The map is wide and open, more so than even Hoth or Sullust’s large locations, yet it’s packed with defensible hills and dunes, and the low kill zones that accompany them. There’s so much cover available that it may appear inappropriately cluttered at first blush. The closest point of comparison I might draw would be crossfires in the undergrowth of Endor, with tangled wreckage and gutted AT-ATs functioning similarly to the foliage and logs, but the width and ground-level focus changes the dynamic of battle considerably.

Graveyard of Giants, is the only map to support Battlefront’s new game mode Turning Point, though it also hosts Walker Assault, Supremacy, and Fighter Squadron matches. Another asymmetric mode, Turning Point puts the Stormtroopers on the back foot, with the Rebels taking the offensive.  Matches are broken into phases that progress across the map, much like Walker Assault, in the first phase there are three capture points in a line, if the Rebels capture one the Imperials fall back. Phase two begins and now there are just two capture points, phase three also has two, but at phase four there’s just one. It is worth noting that capture point progress does not reset if the attackers are ousted from the capture area, this creates a sense of inexorable assault similar to that of the ever-advancing AT-ATs in Walker Assault. The decreasing number of capture points ensures that matches increase in ferocity as they progress, this is complemented by the placement of the capture points, in the defensive highs and murderous kill zones I mentioned earlier.

Star Wars Battlefront Battle of Jakku Graveyard of Giants AT-ST

Goazan Badlands is the smaller of the two maps; it hosts the game modes like Blast, Cargo, and most importantly, Heroes and Villains. The gameplay here feels more conventional than on its larger cousin, a sentiment not unexpected given the needs of the smaller game modes. It bears a hint of the wreckage and destruction seen on Graveyard of Giants, and combines it with a mesh of canyons and tunnels that can support intense shootouts, as is the case in many of Battlefront’s maps. It goes without saying that it looks every bit as gorgeous as the maps packed in at launch, and I have to admit I enjoy the yellow ambiance of Jakku more than the reddish hues of Tatooine.

Star Wars Battlefront Battle of Jakku Goazan badlands AT-AT

Having played around with, and been thoroughly disheartened by Halo 5: Guardian’s recent Battle of Shadow and Light update, Battle of Jakku is a revitalising pleasure that arrived exactly when I needed it to. Now you may be wondering why I bothered bringing Halo’s free update up at all in this piece about Battlefront, but there’s a real contrast in quality and volume of content to be explored here.

Halo 5’s Battle of Shadow and Light update added four maps to support the ‘new’ game mode Big Team Battle, as well as an array of REQ cards, however like a good number of the Halo 5’s launch maps, these have been built using the (still unreleased) Forge editing tools. In short they look rough, real rough and in the matches I played, both alone and in a party, they never captured the spirit of Big Team Battle, one of the modes I frequented in past Halo titles. This is made worse by the fact that this is the only mode that supports vehicular gameplay free from the very real effects of Warzone’s microtransactions and the design that accompanies them. With regards to the maps specifically, their state combined with that of many of the launch maps, elicits no small amount of concern in me for the future of the game. All DLC maps that will be added to Halo 5 will be free, and if Battle of Shadow and Light is any indication then free is about the right price.

Star Wars Battlefront Battle of Jakku Graveyard of Giants corellian corvette

Battle of Jakku is certainly smaller in scope than Halo’s free content, yet far more impactful; Turning Point is a fantastic new mode that takes the core concepts of Battlefront’s premier modes and adds a palpable twist of escalating ferocity. Turning Point capitalises on Graveyard of Giants’ unique landscape to great effect, and it’s a gloriously stunning landscape at that.  Goazan Badlands is every bit as valid, but it could simply never capture the conversation like its vast companion. If this is what’s on the horizon for Battlefront, then its future I’m happy to pay for, while hoping of course that Halo 5’s free path turns similarly satisfying.  

Battle of Jakku launched December 1st for those who pre-order Battlefront, it’ll be available for free for all come December 8th.  

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